Yesterday was the last day of school for the kids! While it was a JOY to delete my 5:30am alarm last night, yesterday was a little tougher to get through than most Last Days of School have been because it was not just The Last Day of School Before Summer Break, it was probably THE Last Day of School for K, at least for the foreseeable future. Next year, we plan on homeschooling her which is an exciting and fun thing, but man, do I LOVE the staff at the school campus she has attended for the past 5 years and I will fiercely miss seeing them daily. I didn’t really disclose our plans to many people (though it probably will not be a huge surprise as K, who cannot keep anything to herself ever, has been excitedly sharing our tentative plans for quite a while now) because I did not want yesterday to be a goodbye-filled day…my little heart could not have taken that! And I don’t plan on it being goodbye anyway, I just think those special relationships will just have to carry on in a different way from this point! You may be wondering WHY we are deciding to pull K from her last year of traditional elementary to homeschool, so let me explain…

1. Homeschool has always been in our future plans for K.

K is a great kid. She is smart. She is hilarious. She is friendly. She is also extremely trusting and innocent to the motives of other people and struggles with some aspects of social exchanges. K is a strange mixture of intellectually mature and socially immature, she knows and thinks and talks about things that are above the knowledge and interest level of most of her peers, but behaves in a way that is younger. She doesn’t always read other people’s cues appropriately and tends to get along better with grown-ups because they understand her and can also easily overlook her quirks. Kids are not as understanding. Setting her loose on a middle school campus where many of the kids are not so innocent or deserving of the kind of trust K gives so easily is not something we feel is a good option for her. While her brother has done great in middle school, we have known from the outset that this is not a good environment for K. It is too big and not nearly as closely supervised as her elementary campus. Everyone does NOT know everyone and the staff would not be able to look out for her the way they can at her current campus (it has been SUCH a blessing to have a staff that knows and cares for K). Okay, so that explains why we planned on homeschool starting in 5th grade, but what made us decide to start in 4th grade instead??

2. This year has been a difficult year for K, socially.

While the staff at K’s school is wonderful and caring and helpful, there has still been a lot of peer-to-peer unkindness directed at K this year. A lot. Stuff like backing away from her as she walked down the halls, making sure she had not checked out library books before they did (“Because we don’t want to touch it if YOU did!”), she lost a good friend when she gagged because of some spilled nacho cheese at lunch due to sensory issues, and even the kids that had been her friends in previous years started to distance themselves from her. My normally happy and sunshiny girl was frequently coming home with sad reports about how people were treating her and it was not a good thing. We really thought we had another year before the social divide between her and her peers reached this level, but we were wrong. She has been excluded and singled out in very pointed and not nice ways and while she maintained her happy demeanor, it was starting to wear on her. The staff was helpful, of course, but while you can ban certain negative behaviors you cannot mandate kindness…at least not in a lasting way. The teacher did have a big talk with the class after one incident (that K and I don’t really know about or WANT to know about) and K came home so happy about all her new friends! “Everyone is my friend again!” She just takes it at face value. YAY! Everyone is my friend! and misses the part about the meanness and the fact that the teacher had to force them into not being ugly towards her. I am thankful that her innocence protects her from the truth of it all and she has mostly maintained her awesome outlook on life, but Josh asked me, “Do you want to leave her in that environment until she gets it and she is no longer her happy self?” And the answer is no. We don’t. School is great, but it isn’t worth that risk especially when we can meet her educational and social needs in other ways. The more we pondered and prayed about homeschooling, the more benefits we saw…

3. Regular school is exhausting for K, homeschool will not have to be.

Obviously education is VERY important to us, but the traditional classroom model takes all of K’s energy. She gets up at 7am and goes to bed at 7:30pm to make that possible and by the time she is done with school and homework, she has nothing left for anything but lounging around the house until sleep time. At home, we will be able to work during K’s peak hours and cover more material in less time. She can sleep later, if needed, and if we have something to do one evening and bedtime is later than usual, we can work around that in our schedule the next day.  K has never been able to pursue any interests outside of school, because school takes up everything she has, but if we homeschool…

4. K will be able to explore enrichment opportunities for the first time ever.

Theater, music, art, maybe even sports! With less of her hours consumed by school (or conserving energy for school), she will be able to try out some fun extras and enjoy a more well-rounded life. School is great and education is super important, but it isn’t everything there is to life. K is in a pretty stable place, medically-speaking, and we want her to be able to enjoy this plateau and get the most she can out of it. Her disease is unpredictable and we don’t take the stable times for granted. There are so many great experiences to have that lie outside the walls of a traditional classroom! And even within the “classroom”, homeschooling will allow us to…

5. Create a different kind of Individualized Education Plan for K!

Like most kids, K has strengths and weaknesses in school. She started reading at 25 months and still reads at a much higher level than her peers, but she is not as strong in math. Homeschooling means that she can work on “grade-level” in math and at a higher level in reading. We can cut out busy work that is helpful for some kids but less so for K, we can exchange information orally to check comprehension when her hand muscles are too fatigued to write. We can use her natural interests to encourage her to work on the more difficult areas and approach subjects in an interactive manner that fits her personality and learning style more appropriately. We can go on field trips and take museum classes and all kind of new things! And can I just say that we will be happy to not have to worry about the STAAR test next year? The amount of anxiety that was created over that test (that she passed (math) and was commended for (reading)!) was a little insane this year. It isn’t why we are homeschooling, by any stretch, but it is a nice little perk.

So, there is just a handful of the reasons that we are planning to homeschool K in the fall. I told Josh that it probably seems strange to some people that we are pulling her out when she is finally doing so well by academic standards. She was dismissed from her IEP and switched to a 504 at the end of the year (meaning her disabilities are no longer affecting her academic work), she no longer requires speech or occupational or physical therapy, and she is the healthiest she has been in years (perfect attendance TWO 9-weeks this year, insanity!). But when we look at the larger picture like this, it kind of seems like the perfect time to take her on this new adventure and see where it leads! She may return to regular school at some point, and we will leave that door open for sure. One of the many things K has taught us is that the future is predictably unpredictable and while we may make plans for things to go one way, they often end up going in a completely different direction! Our goal is, as always, to meet K’s needs in the best way possible and for this season, homeschooling seems the right choice…but life changes quickly and we will continue to be ready and willing to adapt as needed. So, with our best laid plans in place, here we goooo!

If you are a teacher or staff member of K’s school and you are reading this, I cannot thank you enough for the years you have spent caring for my girl! Each of you have invested in her and supported her and loved her and made it possible for her to THRIVE in school and we have made so many wonderful memories with you all. On her first day of school there, drop off was so chaotic and I was so worried about my tiny, quirky, medically-complex kid that I drove away with tears in my eyes because I thought she was going to get lost in the shuffle and the thought of leaving her there was impossible, and yesterday as we drove away I had tears in my eyes because I know she was NEVER lost in the shuffle and the thought of leaving you all there and moving on to a new chapter is impossible. But I sincerely hope that we aren’t leaving you all there at all! Things are changing, but we hope that all of you will continue to be a part of K’s tribe for a very long time, in whatever new form that might take! Life with K is always an adventure, but the company sure has been a marvelous and unexpected gift from God! Thank you!

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